Finding a lost cat – all the useful tips [ 7 step guide]

Cats are very curious animals by nature, and they will always find their way outside just by following their need to explore. Sometimes escaping for an adventure will end up with them simply not remembering how to get back home. And it happens more often than you’d think!

lost cat
Read about the return of Sparky later in the article

If you are reading this post you must have already experienced the heart-breaking sadness of missing your kitty and you are probably worried for their safety and well-being. 

I understand how devastating it is not knowing what to do to find your lost furbaby. So, I am going to share with you the most effective suggestions that I also followed to look for my lost cat Sparky.

I am sure one of these pointers will help you reunite with your beloved fluff ball as well. 

Just by reading this article, you are taking the right first step into getting the most helpful strategies on how to bring your missing cat back home. But, before you follow the guideline below, it is very important to calm yourself down and stay focused! Your anxiety and fear will drive the cat further away from you, and they need to feel safe to come out of hiding.

Here is the 7-step guide I’ve put together to greatly increase the chances of finding your lost cat:

1. Turn your house upside down!

cat in bowl
Cats are ‘liquid’ and fit into the most peculiar places!

Some cats are masters of disguise and some missing cats may not be actually lost. Before you go outside make sure your cat it’s not just hiding in silence somewhere inside your home or got stuck in a spot that she wanted to purposely hide in. Look carefully and as calm as you can in every room of your house, and definitely consider checking all the places you think they can’t fit in, because believe me, they can! They get themselves into the most inaccessible places, especially if they are hurt or scared. Inspect the inside of ALL the furniture pieces you own (cupboards, wardrobes, closets, end tables, nightstands, beds – particularly under mattresses where the springs are-, sofas, recliner chairs, etc). Check any spare rooms, chimneys, washing machines, and laundry baskets. Remember to not desperately scream out their name to avoid scaring them further into hiding. 

Piece of advice
Before you go to sleep recheck the inside of the entire house. If your cat is really hiding, he or she might have already changed its initial hiding spot and could be now in a place where you previously looked already. 

2. Get out and meet the neighbors!

After you concluded examining literally every inch of your house, you can now extend your search outside, primarily around your house and garden, before you go bothering your neighbors. 

Lost cats, particularly indoor-only raised ones tend to stay close to home. Take with you their favorite dry food or treats box and shake it as you begin to walk around and calmly call your cat’s name from time to time.

cat on chair
Fluffy chilling on a plastic chair in a neighbors backyard …

Normally cats are found within three to five houses away from yours.

Look around your porch, inside the bonnet and wheel arches of your car, and extend to all the buildings and objects on your property (garage, barn, bins, greenhouses). Examine all the trees your cat might have climbed up and hasn’t been able to get back down. 

Once your premises are thoroughly inspected, start knocking on your neighbor’s doors! Show them photos of your cat and ask if they have seen it and give them your phone number for contact, then beg for permission to search their grounds as carefully as you did yours. Many neighbors won’t really help you find your pet, but they would be more than happy to let you search for it yourself. Look under their porches, cars, around the rooflines, and in the trees.

Piece of Advice
Cats are most active late at night so if you don’t find your kitty on your first search, the best time to check again is around 2-3 a.m when everyone is sleeping.
cat at night
Sounds can travel further when everything is quiet so take a flashlight and some cans of wet food or cat treat boxes and open/shake them out in the open. The familiar noise might bring your cat to you within a few minutes, or you might have a better chance of hearing them calling for you!

3. Build an outdoor shelter!

outdoor cat shelter
outdoor shelter
outdoor shelter for cat

If you haven’t already found your cat don’t worry it might still come by the morning! Once you return home make them a safe hiding place outside. Get a cardboard box, cut a cat size entry on its side, prepare a comfy bed to put inside it, and then place the box upside down next to your door outside or somewhere on your porch. If the weather is bad use a plastic storage container. Leave out food and water, and consider bringing out their litter box to improve the chances of your cat smelling it and being drawn back home. 

piece of advice
Do not put the litter box outside if you live in an area with many territorial feral tomcats. They will also be attracted to the smell of the litter box and will scare away your kitty upon trying to return home. Cats are more likely to come home because they are not scared anymore, they need their human or food, but not particularly because of the litter box. 
Join our community of furends!

Get the latest news articles and 'tails' of the cat world straight to your in-box  🙀

Invalid email address
You can unsubscribe at any time, but we are pawsitive you will not want to!

4. Contact the RIGHT authorities!

It is important to contact all the agencies responsible for lost and found pets and inform them that your cat is missing. Depending on how big your community area is, the municipality usually has a shelter, a temporary holding area, or a dedicated animal control person that would accept and take in a lost pet brought in by somebody. Also, file any missing animal forms or lost pet reports these entities might have to help good samaritans connect with you in case they find your beloved furbaby. If your cat is microchipped or has a tagged collar this process will even be easier and will offer you a good chance of being reunited with your feline. Your best options are:

  • Police and animal control department – they can point you in the right direction, you can also contact them by calling 411 to acquire the correct phone numbers for the pet rescue agencies near you
  • Veterinarians – most vets have a missing pets register because many people that find a lost pet take it to a nearby vet to scan for a microchip wanting to find the owners by themselves to return the lost animal
  • Shelters – most shelters take in any animal that has been picked up, brought in by somebody, or surrendered by its owner for a period of at least 4 days, so it is important to visit in person all the shelters near you and not just call them.  
  • Humane societies – such organizations have a no euthanizing policy so they have limited space for taking in found animals, but most of them have an open admission so it’s worth a try if you have one in your community.
  • Rescue groups – these organizations don’t normally have a shelter and they chose to rescue animals from bad situations or take them out of shelters and foster them until they can get adopted.
piece of advice
Open a search engine (like Google) and identify the organizations dealing with lost and found pets in your region, by looking for“animal control/ animal shelters/ veterinarians near (your city or area zip code) to have a complete list of the most important ones in the area. 

5. Post it on the web!

Posting lost pet pictures and information on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are very common and worth a try but if you are not connected with the people living near you, it will not be very efficient. Instead let people know you are looking for your lost cat on sites like Nextdoor where people in your neighborhood will have a better chance of seeing your post, Craigslist (whilst you are there look for the found cats posts in your area as well), Tabbytracker, PetAberAlert or any other pet organization in your area that can spread the word fast about a lost pet via social media.

 6. Set a trap!

Ask a local TNR ( Trap – Neuter – Return) organization or an animal shelter to lend you a cat trap and set it somewhere near your home or where you think your cat was last seen exactly as instructed. You might end up traping another animal depending on where you live, like possums or skunks, but you could also trap your cat if she is nearby and hungry. Make sure to check on the trap regularly.

7. Make “Lost Cat” posters, flyers, and pay for ads

Take time and design a ‘lost cat’ poster with accurate information and pictures of your cat that you will stick around your neighborhood on lampposts and trees or in highly populated places (vet offices, grocery stores, markets, bars, schools), and print it in smaller sizes as flyers to personally hand out to people in your area. 

Call your local newspaper and magazines and pay to feature a lost cat ad. Also, make sure to check the lost and found ads of the newspaper daily. You can try to call a local radio station for the same purpose.

piece of advice
✔️ Make sure the poster is big enough and can be read from a distance, and use bright colors for the paper and bold writing to stand out. 
✔️ The headline should always be “MISSING CAT” or “LOST CAT’. 
✔️ To the main information you put on the posters, you should include any distinctive feature that is unique to your cat (like a missing ear tip) that can help better in identifying your lost kitty. 
✔️ Add a friend or a family member’s phone number as a contact in case you can’t be reached. 
✔️ If you choose to offer an incentive for the people that will find your cat, be aware of people that will try to scam you and say they found your furbaby just so they can collect your reward. Make sure it is really your cat before offering any compensation. 

Other useful tips for special cases:

1️⃣ If you recently moved but your old neighborhood is still nearby, consider checking your old house as cats often return to a place they know because they have problems accepting the new house or are very territorial. Some cats might even try to move in with the new people living in your old house.

Finding Simba
simba cat simba cat rescued
One of my old cats, Simba, who now lives with my ex-partner, went missing from his new home after they moved into another house in the same neighborhood, about 2 miles from their old house. Simba was missing for 3 days until I found out and the idea of him going back to where we used to live occurred to me. I found him after I actively searched the area of the old house calling his name and he came to me. After I brought him home safely I got told that they installed a tracker on his collar and he went back to the old house 3 more times in the same week, but always returned home after his visit.

2️⃣ A very friendly indoor/outdoor cat, that also likes to roam around, might have befriended one of the neighbors that probably thinks the cat is a stray (especially if not wearing a collar) and actively encouraged the feline to visit their home by putting out food and water and playing with the cat, which makes the kitty want to go back to them and even stay. ( Just like my Sparky did)

3️⃣ After a few days of being confused and lost on the street a cat can try to join a stray colony, so talk to the people in your neighborhood that feed stray/feral cats and tell them to inform you if they spot any new cat that matches your lost kitty’s description.

4️⃣ If you think you need expert help, you can always contact a pet detective to help you.

Finding Dobby
missing cat missing dobby cat
Dobby is very used to being outdoors and recently he escaped from our new apartment, just two days after we moved in. This time I was lucky and I saw him running away and the direction he went to. If I didn’t it would have been harder for him to even return home, as he didn’t quite understand yet that our new place is his home now. So I calmly took a treat box and went to look for him in the area I saw him run to, and I found him hiding in a grass field next to our apartment building after just 15 minutes of actively calling his name whilst shaking the treat box.

If your cat has not returned after a few days or even weeks, and nobody reported finding it either, do not lose faith, and don’t stop the search too soon! Update your ‘lost cat’ posters with the ‘STILL MISSING’ headline! Keep patrolling the grounds at different times of the day or night, keep asking your neighbors, continue networking the media and visit the shelters nearby as often as you can. 

I know that after a while many pet owners give up thinking their cat might never return or immediately assume something bad has happened to their lost kitty and there is no point in looking anymore, but there have been many cases where cats just returned after a few days or even months by themselves acting as nothing happened or they might surface in a shelter or foster family close by after they lived on the streets and got socialized to humans again.

Sparky’s return
My old cat Sparky was lost for 6 months and returned one day by himself after we really thought he was gone forever.
returned cat
He was not wearing a collar when he returned so this time we got him a tagged collar with my phone number on the back. Sparky left us again after two days and I got a call from a neighbor who informed me that Sparky was living with them for a while. All this time, he was just two streets down from our house!
returned cat sparky
The neighbor got very attached to Sparky and even renamed him! Sparky chose to go and live with the neighbor in spite of all our efforts to keep him at home. In the end, we’ve let him go as he had clearly chosen another human. Although is sad to lose a pet, I am glad he is safe, happy, and loved by our neighbor.

Finding a lost cat?

cat on field

To find a lost cat requires focus, determination, and a never-ending hope of safely reuniting with the feline. The most practical 7 ways to find a missing cat are:

  1. Look everywhere inside your house to make sure the cat it’s not just hiding
  2. Actively search your property and your neighborhood
  3. Prepare an outdoor shelter for your cat to come back to overnight
  4. Contact the police and animal control organizations in your area
  5. Post your missing cat on social media
  6. Set a humane trap around your house or the place your cat was last seen
  7. Make “LOST CAT” posters, flyers, and pay ads in local newspapers.

Next time your cat decides to wander off, be prepared! Check out these tips on how to find your cat faster in the event of getting lost. 

How to prevent a cat from getting lost?

To prevent your cat from getting lost, or at least minimize the search every time your furry little asshole decides to give you another heartbreak just because it likes to explore, follow these pointers:

tagged collar cat
  • Microchip your cat and keep the contact information updated with the vet or in a pet registry in your area when you move house or change your phone number
  • Get your cat a collar with a tag and write their name and your phone number on it, if you think your cat will get stuck somewhere with the collar then get a breakaway collar and be prepared to buy more than one
call a cat
  • Teach your cat to come when called, pick a call signal like their name or any other name you decide to randomly call them, and every time you say the call signal and they come, give them a special treat.
  • Get a pet GPS tracker and attach it to their collar, so if your outdoor cat likes to wander off in the neighborhood you will know where he or she is at all times.

I wish you all the best in your search for your lost furbaby and pray you will be reunited soon.

Leave us a comment with any questions you might have about a missing cat that we can help you with. 

Join our community of furends!

Get the latest news articles and 'tails' of the cat world straight to your in-box  🙀

Invalid email address
You can unsubscribe at any time, but we are pawsitive you will not want to!
  1. Really Good Post 😻🙌! Those piece of advice chunks are great! (I’m so impressed w your writing and your formatting! that litter box outside part? i felt urged to say the very same thing, but couldn’t tie it in succinctly. Im not great at writing (😝 but I have a blog. barely.) I’m a vet tech and created/admin the only lost+found CATS ONLY fb group for our area — they have unique needs, it’s so different than a lost dog, u know? thank u for making this post! (🐈💔 my feline son VANISHED and i unexpectedly became a lost & found pets warrior (I’m shy & don’t usually take solo initiative (context 😅))
    😻 Thank You for Repping the Kitties!! 😻
    From one cat mama to another 🤝😺❤️

    • Dear Ash,

      Thank you for your kind words ❤️

      I had to find the best ways to find a lost cat as our little Dot used to wander off from home often and did not come back for one or two days, which worried us.

      Then we decided to put a tracker on her and found out where here playing spot is. Now if she doesn’t come home for a meal, we just go to pick her up from the beach. 😅

Leave a reply
Enable registration in settings - general